Roar by Cora Carmack

Roar is New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack’s young adult debut. Released in North America on June 13th, 2017, this stunning addition to the Young Adult Fantasy genre is sure to please fans of the genre, and capture the attention of even those who don’t normally find themselves gravitating towards YA Fantasy.

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them. Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people. To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks-storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters. Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

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Roar received a ton of hype leading up to its debut, so I knew I had to read it – the concept of the Stormlings, Storm Hunters and wildly powerful storms was simply too good to ignore. And in my opinion, it was certainly worth the hype! Carmack seamlessly weaves together adventure, romance and intrigue as Aurora (Roar) struggles to find her way in a world that has never completely accepted her as she truly is.

“You are lightning made flesh. Colder than falling snow. Unstoppable as the desert sands riding the wind. You are Stormling, Aurora Pavan. Believe it.” – Cora Carmack, Roar

The characters in this book were amazingly detailed and lovable (or detestable) – from Aurora, to Locke, to Nova and to Cassius, every character felt well fleshed out and developed by the end of the story. Cassius and his family are the perfect cast of villains for this debut novel (although I feel they’ll soon be over-shadowed), and while you can’t help but hate them, Carmack does provide some compelling evidence for their actions which makes the reader sympathize with them (but just a little bit). Nova is an enigma – while her personality and loyalties were well fleshed out, her background and abilities definitely need some more exploration (but I’ve got a feeling that she’ll be pretty important as the series progresses!). Locke is also exactly what I want from male protagonists/romantic interests in YA nowadays – powerful and uncompromising in his beliefs, but also respectful, caring and gentle. Then there’s Locke’s band of Storm Hutners – they’re all fantastic characters individually, but as a whole, they’re superb. Think Six of Crows squad goals. Finally, Aurora (Roar) isn’t your average YA female protagonist – she does not simply fall at the feet of the first available man and allow him to guide her mindlessly through the challenges of the story. Instead, she spurns those who do not value her for what she is truly worth, and holds those who do up to her own set of standards, which she refuses to lower. She is powerful but inexperienced; adventurous but timid; Roar is a set of conflicting ideas, the Stormling she was raised to be fighting with the Storm Hunter she has become. And all the while, Carmack leads us through her stunning development from girl into woman, from dependent into independent, showing us that no woman needs a man to become who they’re meant to be.

The plot that Carmack developed in Roar, in addition to the fantastic story set-up for the rest of the series, was actually breath-taking. Carmack managed to infuse this book with just the right amount of world-building, character development (see above) and actual story, without feeling like she had gone too heavy on one or the other. The world-building in this book was so much fun, and so detailed, all the while carefully set up to not detract from the actual plot, Carmack spent enough time developing the Stormlings and relevant magic systems (seriously, the storm magic is wickedly cool!), while also ensuring that she developed the physical world around her characters as well. Furthermore, the story progressed at a steady, but not rushed pace. It wasn’t so slow that I had a chance to get bored, but it also wasn’t so overwhelmingly rushed that I felt left behind. In addition, Carmack loaded the story with enough twists and turns that even if the reader guesses a few, they’ll still be pleasantly surprised by more than one stunning reveal! And not because Carmack didn’t preface these reveals – but because of the sheer complexity and depth of the world and tale she has built! Truly, its fantastic, and I love it!

Now on to the romance – Aurora (Roar)’s main love interest is evidently Locke, though Cassius is not to be counted out of the running just yet, even though Carmack steered clear of a love triangle in this first installment (thankfully!). I personally really enjoyed Roar and Locke’s relationship from beginning to end –  not only did it feel real and flawed, but it felt natural in its progression, in it’s growth, and most of all in it’s beauty. Locke is strong and supportive and he allows Roar to be her own person, but he also doesn’t roll over and play dead when he has an opinion about something. They make mistakes, and when they do, they apologize, and the re-evaluate. The two butt heads more than once, and the push-and-pull of their blooming relationship felt far more realistic than most relationship in YA. Any relationship that does not have a give and a take, a push and a pull, is a controlling and unhealthy relationship, whether or not the characters/author realize this. Roar book showed the reader a real relationship and this is one of the things I loved most about this book. Roar and Locke aren’t perfect – far from it, actually – but they’re both growing, and testing the waters of what could be a beautiful relationship, if only they can navigate their way to each other.

Overall, if you hadn’t already guessed, I loved Roar – so much so that I’m already considering a re-read! Carmack crafted a truly beautiful piece of YA Fantasy here, and it has all the elements fans of the genre will want – action, intrigue, magic and romance – in addition to being a wonderfully developed and complex story (4.5/5).

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